Judging, Koscheck’s options and more: UFC 143 Octagon Observations

Dave Doyle

LAS VEGAS -- Watching the main event of UFC 143 from my spot on press row, where the fight can often look quite a bit different than it does on television, I thought Nick Diaz won his interim welterweight title fight against Carlos Condit. I had Diaz winning the first three rounds and Condit taking the last two. The fight was close enough that you can't call it a robbery, but I did feel Diaz was effective enough over the first three rounds to earn the decision.

In the aftermath of the decision, and the heated debate that came with it, though, I've been left to wonder: On what do MMA judges base decisions, these days?

Among the several factors judges are supposed to consider under the Unified Rules is aggression. Diaz was the clear-cut aggressor in the first three rounds.

Octagon control is also supposed to be considered when judging a round. Condit seemed to spend most of the early rounds backpedaling. He even ended the third round literally scooting backwards on his butt to get out of Diaz's way.

And yet, you never seem to hear anything about aggression and Octagon control these days when judging is dissected after the fact.

[Related: Carlos Condit faced with controversy after win over Nick Diaz]

There was a time when turning an MMA fight into a track meet was not considered a virtue. John McCarthy docked Jamie Varner a point in his UFC 62 loss to Hermes Franca for running when he employed similar tactics. Kalib Starnes was just about mocked out of the sport entirely for running sprints in his UFC 83 bout with Nate Quarry.

This is supposed to be a fight, right? With fighting for points increasingly becoming en vogue, maybe it's time to take a closer look at the actual criteria laid out for the judges when scoring a round. Aggression is supposed to be rewarded and weighted more heavily than defense. Backpedaling and sprinting is not supposed to be a point in a fighter's favor. Let's nip this one in the bud before MMA turns into Olympic tae kwondo.

• Much is being made of the fact that Condit outstruck Diaz in the fight. According to CompuStrike, he outlanded Diaz, 146-110. All this tells me is that MMA statistic keeping is still in its infancy and has a long way to go before it's a rock-solid method of measuring a fight. Sure, a 36-strike discrepancy could be an accurate portrayal of a fight. It could also mean the when one fighter has another cornered, he connected solidly on a single straight right, only to have his opponent throw a wild flurry of four of five punches, none of which did damage, then scamper to safety. And yet the latter fighter in that example would have a 5-1 strike advantage. Which leads us to the next stat, "significant" strikes, which Condit also took Who gets to define "significant?" That's a subjective decision and thus has minimal value as an objective fight measure.

[Related: Plenty of outrage over Diaz-Condit decision]

• In hindsight, maybe Herb Dean should have just docked Alex Caceres after his first kill shot to Edwin Figueroa's groin, then docked him another after the second one, rather than issue a warning after the first one and deduct two later. While Dean's two-point deduction was certainly unusual, I can't get too worked up about it. The first one was right up there with the nastiest groin shots I've seen in six years over covering MMA. Dean issued Caceres a "strong warning," and within a matter of seconds after the fight resumed, Caceres went right back to throwing wild kicks, to the point you could tell there was going to be another foul if the fight went on for any length of time. I wouldn't want to see referees start handing out two-point deductions left and right. But Dean, in my opinion, is one of the two best refs in the business along with Josh Rosenthal, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the call in this instance. Hopefully Caceres, an energetic bantamweight with some upside, will use this experience to become a smarter fighter.

• Just over a year ago, Josh Koscheck looked like a fighter without many viable options. He had just lost his title challenge to Georges St-Pierre in one-sided fashion, and he suffered a cracked orbital bone in the process. It was his second loss to GSP, and the No. 2 guy in the division, Jon Fitch, was his teammate for life at the American Kickboxing Academy. But now Koscheck has a variety of intriguing options. Should he be the next opponent for Diaz (c'mon, you and I both know Nick isn't retiring)? Should he get a hot up-and-comer like Jake Ellenberger or Rory McDonald? Or is that off-limits fight against Fitch maybe on the table now that Koscheck is no longer with AKA? Love him, hate him, or love to hate him, Josh Koscheck remains one of the UFC's most interesting fighters.

[Related: Jon Fitch vs. Josh Koscheck is a possibility]

• Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson apparently never heard of the famed "Octagon jitters" fighters are supposed to experience in their UFC debut. The Simpsonville, S.C., native looked poised and confident from the get-go in his bout with Dan Stittgen, right up until the highlight-reel head kick that won him both the fight and a $65,000 knockout of the night bonus. Sure, one fight is far too soon to label someone a potential contender, but Thompson impressed inside the cage and was humble at the post-fight press conference, so you know he has the right attitude. Way to make a first impression, kid.

Follow Dave Doyle on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/davedoylemma

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